A bill that would let people carry concealed firearms without a permit and without training passed out of the House on Friday, putting the bill just a step away from the governor’s desk.
The legislation lets people who are otherwise qualified to purchase and carry a firearm avoid the permitting process to conceal carry their weapon. Rep. Chuck Brannan, R-Macclenny, said the bill was about removing red tape, and that “Florida will not come between you and your freedom to protect yourself anymore.” The legislation passed 76-32.
Despite intense lobbying, the legislation does not open the door to allow people to openly carry their guns in public — a point of anger among pro-gun advocates who say the bill does not go far enough in protecting Second Amendment rights.
Rep. Mike Beltran, R-Riverview, briefly filed an amendment earlier this week that would have allowed for open carrying in certain kinds of holsters. But he withdrew it the next day. On the House floor, he spoke at length about why he believes open carry would be a good move.
Beltran said in a text that the amendment “was and is good policy but unfortunately this is not the right time or the right vehicle.”
“I’d prefer to pass this legislation and lock in what we can, and then see what we can accomplish later,” Beltran wrote.
House Speaker Paul Renner said he supports open carry, but said there’s concern among his caucus and in the Senate about the issue. He said he and Beltran discussed the amendment and identified some problems that would have made things “worse, not better,” which were flagged by the National Rifle Association.
“There are a lot of things I don’t get as speaker that I want, and I’m very very happy that this bill moves us forward, expands rights in a way that are material and important,” Renner said.
Luis Valdes, Florida director of Gun Owners of America, said in a statement that the permitless carry bill is a step in the right direction, but said it isn’t “constitutional carry” like Gov. Ron DeSantis promised last year.
“Governor DeSantis promised Floridians that we’d get constitutional carry and the Republican supermajority is failing to bring that,” Valdes said.
Members of pro-gun groups speaking out against the bill found themselves strange bedfellows with gun safety advocates, who argued the removal of an additional background check and the training requirement made the public less safe.
An amendment to require training was one of more than a dozen amendments put forward on the permitless carry bill, nearly all of which were sponsored by Democrats, and nearly all of which failed.
Brannan, the sponsor of the bill, said he thought training was important, and pointed to $1.5 million in the bill allotted for it, but said he did not think it was “the nanny government’s job” to mandate it.
Democrats also argued the bill would increase the risk of profiling, and would acutely impact Black communities.
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One of the amendments, from Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, would allow people to carry firearms into meetings in the Legislature. Legislative meetings are one place, along with courthouses, polling places, and a handful of other designated areas, where Florida law prohibits people from carrying firearms, concealed or otherwise.
Eskamani said “if the majority party thinks guns make us more safe, we should strike this.” Republicans voted the amendment down.
Another amendment by Eskamani would have created an avenue for people to put themselves on a voluntary do not sell list, which they could remove themselves from later. Eskamani said it was designed to help protect people contemplating suicide.
During the debate, Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby, D-St. Petersburg, told legislators that in 2021, she attempted suicide with a gun and later checked herself into a mental health facility.
“At the end of the day I don’t see the harm in this type of amendment if it can save someone’s life like mine,” Rayner-Goolsby said.
The amendment failed.
Alexis Dorman, a 19-year-old volunteer with Students Demand Action, said she expected that the bill would pass because of the Republican supermajority, but said she was surprised by the speed at which it moved. By the first week of Florida’s legislative session, the bill was through all of its committees in the House and Senate.
“The youth in our state today are going to grow up around people who can legally carry a firearm without any proper training, and that’s really scary to think about,” Dorman said.
The permitless carry legislation is also available for a vote on the Senate floor, but hasn’t yet been scheduled.
How to get help
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or chat with someone online at 988lifeline.org.
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